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Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Recently we saw Her Majesty officially re-open Parliament with the delivery of the traditional Queen’s Speech. Although surrounded by less pomp and ceremony than usual, it was still an event to be noted as the Government set out its agenda and plans for the future.
There are a number of key proposals on the economy from the Queen’s Speech that are worth highlighting:
As expected, there were a lot of new bills and statements regarding the UK’s exit from the European Union and BESA will be here to make sure that the voice and needs of our members and sector are heard in Westminster and the Devolved Assemblies throughout this process:
Repeal Bill - This legislation will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and convert EU law into UK law, allowing UK Parliament and the devolved legislatures to make any future changes to its laws. In its capacity as adviser to the Cabinet Office and Crown Commercial Services, BESA will seek to influence this process to the benefit of members.
Customs Bill - The Customs Bill ensures that the UK has a standalone UK customs regime, Parliament control UK VAT and excise rates and that the Government can collect payments of customs duties, administer the customs regime and prosecute duty evasion. Most notably the UK Government will be free to negotiate trade deals with the EU and non-EU states and will be solely responsible for control over the import and export of goods.
Trade Bill - This will establish the legal framework for the UK to sign new free trade deals with countries around the world and make sure that UK businesses are protected from unfair trading practices. A strong trade deal/customs agreement (in whatever form) that secures the ability of the UK built-environment sector to procure components manufactured from outside the UK will undoubtedly allow the sector the strongest possible climate in which to sustain growth and productivity.
Immigration Bill - This will allow the Government to end the free movement of EU citizens to the UK, but according to the Government still allows the country to attract "the brightest and the best." Given that free movement of skills will be an invaluable advantage for the sector meaning, we welcome the latest commitment expressed on EU workers resident in the UK.
National Insurance Contributions Bill - The Government have set out plans to legislate the National Insurance contribution (NICs) changes that were announced in the 2016 Budget and 2016 Autumn Statement, but does not relate to future discussions of Class 4 contributions. These changes included compliance and personal tax changes, but most notably that employees and employers will start paying National Insurance on weekly earnings above £157. The goal is that this will simplify payment of National Insurance for employers.
Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill – While extending motor insurance requirements for these automated vehicles and tabling commitments to install charging points at motorway service stations and fuel retailers, there has been no mention of subsidies, tax breaks or financial incentives for companies that might upgrade their fleets in order to reduce carbon footprint. We will keep members informed of any developments as this progresses to ensure you can plan and assess the impact on your business.
High Speed 2 Phase 2A Bill - The Government has recommitted to the HS2 project and the powers to compulsorily acquire land needed for it. Planning will be developed on a site-by-site basis in coordination with local planning authorities and a conversation is soon to start on the regulation of this new railway. This major infrastructure project will bring market opportunities for BESA members and BESA has been in dialogue with HS2 for some time on industry issues such as fair payment, BIM, digital contracts and procurement. HS2 are actively seeking engagement from our sector and welcome bids from BESA members through the CompeteFor portal system.
Smart Meter Bill - Aiming to help consumers better understand their energy usage and bills, smart meters will be offered to every household and business by the end of 2020. While a positive step to help consumers and businesses, this will also contribute to reducing the UK’s CO2 emissions and energy consumption. It is hopeful that in the future the maintenance and installation of these meters will be a positive initiative for BESA members, allowing them to recommend and install low carbon and energy efficient systems saving consumers over the whole-life of the system.
There were also two proposed housing bills; one that aims to protect tenants consumer rights and another looking to simplify the mortgages system for prospective home buyers. While not stating official targets or numbers, the Government have also set a commitment to build additional housing and promote transparency in the housing market. This could well lead to stimulation in the housing market and new work opportunities for BESA Members operating in this space.
In light of BESA pioneering the sector issues of diversity and mental health, BESA welcomes commitments within the Speech to actively tackle the gender pay gap and reform mental health legislation.
The Government have announced the launch of a ‘full public inquiry’ to ‘ascertain the causes, and ensure that the appropriate lessons are learnt.’ This terrible event will undoubtedly become a defining moment for the whole built environment sector. Tall buildings are going to be an increasingly large part of our cities and it is vital that the highest standards of safety in design and construction are enforced. The Queens speech also noted the future formation of a Public Advocate to represent and act on behalf of victims and bereaved families after a public disaster and support them at public inquests.
In Conclusion. . .
BESA welcome the announcement of a full public enquiry into the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and the Government’s commitment to improving mental health, tackling the gender pay gap and environmentally aware policies.
With regards to the overall tone of Her Majesty’s Speech, BESA appreciates the Government’s goal of achieving ‘the best possible deal as the country leaves the EU,’ but the built-environment sector has specific needs and expectations from the Government that cannot be fulfilled without a fully collaborative effort within a viable industrial strategy underpinned by a relevant and focused sector deal.
As the voice of our members and sector, BESA will continue to work with Government at all levels to ensure that our interests are represented, reflected and fully considered throughout the negotiating process and beyond. We will provide expertise and knowledge to the Government and Civil Service and ensure our membership is fully informed and can continue to assess the strategic implications to their business arising from changes and initiatives arising, in the political landscape.
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